Yesterday morning Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Christian Porter is an “innocent man under our law”.
The PM previously decided there shouldn’t be an inquiry into the suitability of Australia’s first law officer to keep his position after a series of allegations of sexism, sexual misconduct and rape. Porter strenuously denies the allegations.
Morrison based his decision on absolutely zero expert opinion and didn’t seek out the solicitor-general’s advice. His own two cents (and we can assume Jen’s guidance) was enough to do away with the serious claims put forward by a woman who later took her own life.
This is the latest display of Liberal men protecting their pack. And this pack, former foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop said on Monday, is a group with such disgusting machismo they called themselves the “big swinging dicks”.
Big dick name, little dick energy
The group name was first outed in 2009 by The Australian’s Glenn Milne. Members reportedly included Christopher Pyne, Steven Ciobo, Greg Hunt, Peter Dutton, Jamie Briggs, Mathias Cormann, Michael Keenan and Morrison.
The claim was repeated by former minister Sharman Stone last month. Bishop said a decade ago and now that this group tried (and failed) to thwart her career. Liberal men have denied the existence of this group — in 2009 and today.
Whether the group existed or not, the macho pack mentality it encapsulated certainly still does. Just take a look at who leads them.
On Julian Assange’s extradition, Morrison “joked” about how plenty of his mates “have asked me if they can be my special envoy to help sort out the issue with Pamela Anderson”. On International Women’s Day in 2019 he said that women should rise but “not at the expense of [men]”.
He suggested he needs to contextualise alleged rape victims as his daughters to muster an iota of empathy. He interrupted Social Services Minister Anne Ruston when she was asked about what it’s like to be a woman in Parliament. When Labor’s Jim Chalmers said he cried in Kevin Rudd’s office, Morrison mocked him for being “sensitive”.
Morrison has previously denied his party had a “women problem”.
Testosterone immune to accountability
Liberal women have been abandoning their ranks in droves. Most recently, Nicolle Flint stepped down after previously calling out sexist abuse. Julia Banks, having previously called out a culture of bullying, said the political system was “stuck in time”. Bishop resigned after saying the workplace culture was untenable. Former senator Lucy Gichuhi said that male bullies of the Liberal Party need to “stop beating up our women”.
While women are pushed out of the party after being ruthlessly mocked and bullied by men on the same side as them, there is a pack of dudes who seem to be protected in their positions.
There’s Angus Taylor, who remains in Parliament after the “watergate” scandal, among other incidents. Dutton’s pork-barrelling allegations and au pairs have largely been forgotten. Alan Tudge holds his seat even after the alleged poor treatment of and affair with a female staffer. Stuart Robert was brought back even after robotdebt. Paul Fletcher faced nothing for land overpayment.
Let’s not forget Porter who also stacked the Administrative Appeals Tribunal with his Liberal mates. He was promoted by Malcolm Turnbull just weeks after being reprimanded for being drunk in the company of young women.
The list goes on.
Meanwhile, former Nationals deputy leader and agriculture minister Bridget McKenzie is the only senior Coalition MP to ever face a consequence since Morrison became PM following the sports rorts affair.
Of the men alleged to be in the “big swinging dicks” group, few remain — though they left for different reasons to recent Liberal women.
Pyne and Ciobo left after the 2018 leadership spill, Keenan left in 2019 to spend time with family, and Cormann left last year to pursue a career at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Briggs is one of the few Liberal men to lose his position, resigning in 2015 after complaints about his behaviour on a night out in Hong Kong by a female staffer.
All this does little for female representation in Parliament. In the House of Representatives, just 31% of members are female — a statistic dragged down by the fact women represent just 19.5% of the Coalition party room.
The huge difference in treatment and accountability (and the ignorance to the gender implications that drive this) shows the mentality of the “big swinging dicks” group is still alive and well.
This article is curated from our sister publication Crikey.